‘Overlooked’ would be how we’d describe Kia Motors in South Africa up until a few years ago. To remedy this perception, or rather lack thereof, the company has made bold moves, including offering an industry leading 5-year/150 000 km warranty on all their vehicles and more recently by offering a fresh range of stylish new models, which began with the Soul, followed by Cerato and a just few weeks ago, the Sorento SUV.
The Cerato was launched towards the end of last year, around the same time that Chevrolet launched their new Cruze. The two new comers go head-to-head in the compact-sedan market and although our purpose here is not to compare the two, you can judge or yourself by taking a look at our test of the 1.6 Chevrolet Cruze.
Inside, the Cerato’s cabin offers enough space in both the front and the rear. The black cloth covered seats are comfortable, a big improvement over those of the Soul, which lacked lumbar support. It’s easy enough to find a commanding driving position, thanks to a height and reach adjustable steering-wheel. Instrumentation is clearly legible, although we would like a traditional analogue temperature gauge instead of the blue/red lights used. The indicator stalks and other switch gear have a positive feel about them and all work in a logical manner.
The centre stack in the dashboard houses controls for the air conditioning, radio/cd/mp3 player and flows down towards the transmission console, where you’ll find a useful storage tray in front of the gear lever, as well as two cup holders between the handbrake and armrest. A small but valuable accessory offered by Kia is that of a connector to charge and link your iPod to the radio – something other manufacturers should take note of. While we’re on that point, the sound quality of the radio is nothing fantastic and suffers from over eager bass reproduction.
The Cerato’s interior plastics are well screwed together and equally well finished off. The various textures used in the dashboard help to achieve a smart and tasteful look, while a soft metal finish has been applied to the interior door handles, steering wheel centre, door trims, transmission console and the centre stack.
For a small family of four, ample storage space is available and includes two cup holders (front and rear), a dashboard glove box that is 20% larger than before, a sunglasses holder, as well as storage bins in each door. The rear seat backrest is split in a 60/40 configuration and when folded down, increases carrying capacity over the already ample 415-litres. A nice touch is the rubberised floor mat in the boot, which helps to prevent luggage from rolling around, as well as the anti-dazzle rearview mirror – an expensive option on some more expensive cars.
From a safety aspect, the new Cerato features a comprehensive list of features as standard. Passengers can travel safely knowing they have the benefit of ABS, EBD, driver and front passenger airbags, side and full-length curtain airbags, active head restraints and an auto impact door unlock mechanism.
By now you would have noticed the Kia Cerato on the road, even if you weren’t sure what it was at first glance. There’s a very good reason for this. In 2006, Kia appointed Peter Schreyer as their head of design. Peter who? Peter Schreyer joined Kia after 25 years with Audi, during which time he penned the classic lines of the Audi TT. But enough with the history lessons, one look at the Cerato and you’re instantly drawn to a family sedan with bold lines and stylish face – something quite uncharacteristic of most passenger cars in our local C-segment.
Front fog lamps, colour coded side mirrors with integrated indicators, chromed door handles to match the front grille, black accents in the rear bumper and 16-inch alloy wheels, round off the 1.6′s suave look. Our test vehicle wore a coat of Kia’s ‘Dark Cherry’ paint and turned more than a few heads during our test period – we were even waved down in a parking lot only to be told “what a nice colour”.
According to Kia, the experience you should have behind the wheel of the new Cerato is one of “precise vehicle control and good ‘feel’”, thanks to the car’s speed-sensitive, motor driven, power-assisted steering. However, we feel the manufacturer still has some way to go to achieving this.
The inherent straight line stability of the new Cerato is fine – only the blustery Cape Doctor warranted steering corrections. Despite the all-new coupled torsion beam axle, the Cerato can get a little ‘squirelly’ over a series of bumps, which is not an endearing trait. The rear suspension also seems to be a little too softly sprung, with a full boot of luggage, or heavy compliment of rear passengers resulting in a more wallowy feel. The new rear suspension setup does have its benefits though – a 12 kg weight saving over the previous multi-link setup, as well as a more compact layout resulting in more interior cabin and cargo space.
As you might well have guessed, cornering in the Cerato is a somewhat benign experience, thanks to an artificial and over assisted steering setup. The car always goes where you point it, but with a definite disconnect between the driver and the road. Around town these attributes are not as pronounced, in fact the light steering is welcomed, but on the open road the steering is more functional than sensational.
The 1.6 Kia Cerato, is powered by, yes you guessed it, a 1,6-litre 16-valve engine, which produces a useful 91 kW at 6 300 rpm. This makes it one of the most powerful engines in its class, on par with Toyota’s 1.6 Auris and Corolla models and second only to the snappy little Renault Twingo RS. The 5-speed gearbox is easy to operate but could do with an extra cog to further improve fuel consumption and reduce noise at cruising speeds. And cruise the Cerato does, with just over 1.2 tonnes to haul around, the gutsy engine pulls well and maintains a comfortable pace with relative ease. Despite not having a 6th gear to lower engine speed (the Cerato maintains close to 3 500 rpm at 120 km/h), the engine returned an admirable fuel consumption of 7.6 l/100km.
What we like…
- New face of Kia breathes a bit of life into the traditionally bland styling of the C-segment.
- Gutsy and economical 1,6-litre engine.
- iPod & Aux-In connections and anti-dazzle rearview mirror as standard.
What we would like…
- Steering feel.
- A more composed rear suspension setup when carting heavier rear passengers and loads.
|Base Price||R179 995|
|Warranty||5 year / 100 000 km|
|Service Plan||4 year / 90 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||1 591 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||91 kW @ 6 300 rpm|
|Torque||156 N.m @ 4 200 rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 10.3 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||190 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||6.6 l/100km (claimed combined)|